Phoenix race primer: What to expect in the Chase Eliminator finale
Some quick tips on what to look for in Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway:
KEVIN HARVICK SHOULD WIN: All weekend long, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet has been the fastest car in both short and long runs. He has been a beast in terms of speed. Harvick has won three out of the past four races at PIR, too. He is the clear-cut favorite.
WHY HARVICK MIGHT NOT WIN: Five times this year, Harvick has led 100 laps in a race and not won. And Saturday, Kyle Busch led 187 of 206 laps in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, only to be passed by Brad Keselowski for the victory on a green-white-checkered restart.
BAD BRAD IS FEELING IT: Brad Keselowski’s surprise victory on Saturday has only served to raise his already sky-high confidence level. He has a fast car, brass balls and a ton of belief in himself right now. Expect him to absolutely be in the mix for the race victory.
TOYOTA GOING PLACES: The last time a Toyota won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was May 4 at Talladega, 25 long races ago. But all three Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas qualified in the top six, with Denny Hamlin on the pole, Matt Kenseth fifth and Kyle Busch sixth. They could make some noise on Sunday.
POINTS RACING IS BACK: After Sunday’s race, four drivers will advance to the one-race, season-ending Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If a Chaser wins at Phoenix, he’ll lock himself in, along with the top three in points. If a non-Chaser wins Sunday, the top four in points advance. Right now, the top four are Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, who are tied; along with Ryan Newman (-2 points) and Jeff Gordon (-12).
UPSET SPECIAL: He’s not in title contention any more, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been impressive all weekend.